Friday, July 24, 2015

Tecfidera; Notes From The Lobster Pot

Multiple Sclerosis sucks, but these MS disease modifying drugs are the bane of my existence. I started Tecfidera in April after trying and failing the 3 times a week Copaxone. I swear I am more old injection site lumps and dips than woman. It makes those shots such a hoot I wasn't sure how much more fun I could handle in my life and found myself "forgetting", skipping, and finally downright unwilling to do it to myself anymore. (Also I think the 3x a week Copaxone stings more.) As much as I would love to -- metaphorically speaking -- skip off into the sunset DMD free forever, I realize that is not a wise choice, especially after 10 years of being diagnosed, and increasing lesion burden in my spinal cord and in between the two hemispheres of my brain, causing cognitive problems. I had to choose between irreparable brain damage and, ugh, a DMD, there was no third door with a donkey and a cart behind it to choose instead.

As I said above, I started Tecfidera in April. My neurologist went over all the things I needed to know to get me started like, in her words, possible "brutal" nausea, and the flushing side effect. She told me taking it with rice was supposed to really help with nausea, which happens to be one of my favorite foods. My sister made me rice puddings for a few weeks because the fact that there was a kitchen in my house that actually had food in it made me want to throw up and die. I had read online that a big ol' greasy cheeseburger was actually best for the nausea but not ideal for anybody's diet especially as you take the med twice a day. Honestly, it was all just a matter of degrees. I would start feeling human again, think that maybe I could go and nibble on something, and that thought wasn't horrifically revolting, then see the time and it all made sense. I only had a few more hours until I had to take my next poison pill. I would stuff myself to the gills, take my pill, and hunker down, preparing for that nausea to hit, to make my whole body, down to my DNA, want to turn itself inside out to dump out any food that ever touched my insides. I've never been pregnant, but my sister had terrible morning sickness with both her pregnancies, and she and I were discussing nausea and it sounds like they are pretty comparable.

You know what got me through Tecfidera's mind numbingly, at many times completely debilitating nausea? Marijuana. I have done search after search to see how many people have used marijuana to get them through it and I have not found many who have said they did/are. I realize not everyone can do this, and I'm truly sorry for them because you don't have to suffer. You also don't have to pull out the six foot purple bong with Jimi Hendrix on it and start taking huge hits like you're a kid again. All things in moderation. When I start feeling the beginnings of the horror starting, I take a puff, sometimes two off a small pipe. When you take something for medicinal purposes like this, you really don't get "high" like you do if ripping off Jimi's purple haze. I can tell that I smoked, but I can still function. I go outside with my dogs and water my plants, etc. My head may be fuzzy around the edges but it's not in the toilet, and I can live with that. I knew I didn't want to sit around smoking pot forever, this was just temporary. I was keeping my eyes on the prize.

Tecfidera has cleared up my mental fog. I feel like I can think clearly again. There was NO WAY I was going to let the temporary nausea win -- it usually only lasts about six weeks. (Also I am not doing injections again, at least for awhile, a long while.) I don't want this mental clarity to go away. I feel like it would be a Flowers For Algernon situation. This is why I made the choice to smoke marijuana to get me through the nausea, and even smoking, my mind was more clear than it has been in a long time. Of course my neurologist was thrilled when I told her I was smoking to deal with the nausea.

Neuro: How have you been doing with the nausea?
Blindbeard: It's horrible. I started smoking pot because nothing helps.
Neuro almost falls off stool. Blindbeard watches passively, making no move to help. Neuro rights herself and Blindbeard is secretly disappointed she didn't hit the ground. Conversation continues as if these two women like each other.
N: You should really try to stick to the rice. That seems to be doing the trick.
BB: I've tried everything. Nothing works.
N: Well, the rice is what they recommend.
BB: I'm going to stick with my six foot purple bong. You want to take a hit and go get cheeseburgers?

The next major side effect of Tecfidera is the flushing. Oddly, my neurologist was much more interested in driving home the point that the flushing is really uncomfortable but temporary. Maybe some people get scared when their body starts feeling like they have the worst sunburn of their lives spreading its nefarious burning heat over your ears and cheeks, down your chest and back. Those 15-20 minutes sure do seem a lot longer when your arms are on fire and you have all your frozen vegetable tied to your face, ears, chest, and shoulders with those resistance bands you knew you were keeping around for some reason. When that flushing comes on, that's when I start feeling like a lobster in a boiling pot. When I was searching for others' experiences with the flushing, I came across one review where they said Tecfidera improved their hemorrhoids. Mental clarity and improved hemorrhoids, what can't Tecfidera do?!